Fr, 27.01.2023

The skeleton in our closet: 14 kg of clothes is discarded by Estonians every year

The skeleton in our closet: 14 kg of clothes is discarded by Estonians every year
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Photo: Keskkonnaministeerium

Estonian people discard 17 kg of clothes every year per person, of which 14 kg goes directly in the garbage. This pile of clothes from our homes could instead find its way to recycling or go to those in need.

Every second in the world, one lorry-full of clothes is driven to a landfill or an incinerator. In Europe alone, 5.8 million tons of clothes are discarded every year. "The entire world is struggling with the problem of textile waste,” said Minister of the Environment Madis Kallas. “People are buying more clothes now than ever before, but we still haven’t figured out how to handle the waste generated by them. This is also the case in Estonia, as we are yet to have effective solutions for large-scale textile recycling here.”

But even greater environmental damage is caused by the production of clothes. The fashion industry is responsible for approximately 10% of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions — significantly more than international aviation and shipping combined.

"The production of clothes requires a lot of water and energy, as well as non-renewable resources such as oil,” said Sigrid Soomlais, Head of the Environmental Management Department. “At the same time, fashion changes very quickly and we also tend to get bored with our wardrobe easily. The ever-increasing production and purchase of clothes places a great burden on the environment and our ecosystems.”

What can each of us do to save the world from the textile flood?

Buy less!

The best option would be to avoid over-production of clothes. The less people consume and buy new things, the less resources are used for their production and waste management. Were we able to keep our excessive shopping desires in check, we could contribute to slowing down climate change.

Choose wisely!

However, sometimes having to buy a new product is unavoidable. But even then it is possible to make more environmentally conscious choices, for example by preferring second hand shops. We could choose items with a timeless cut, that are made out of high-quality and durable material and the life of which can be further extended by repair. Clothes are often made from synthetic materials, the production of which requires a lot of water and energy — materials that take decades to decompose in nature. Up to 35% of the microplastics found in the environment have reached it through clothes. Therefore, preference should be given to cotton, wool, linen, hemp, bamboo or other natural materials. Clothes produced in a way that is safe for people and the environment can be recognised by an eco-label on the product (e.g. Oeko-Tex).

When buying clothes, it is also worth paying attention to where they are made. By preferring domestic textile production, your footprint will be several times smaller and you’ll be supporting local employment.

Repair and donate!

It is also worth giving new life to broken garments by repairing them. If you lack the skills yourself, you could get the necessary help from a repair shop or an acquaintance. By repairing clothes, you could save both the environment and your wallet.

If you simply have intact and clean clothes you don’t need anymore, you could donate them to those in need or to second hand shops. You can check out which collection point or repair centre is closest to you at: